Produce Awards 2018: North East Produce Awards judging

It’s a long drive from home in Sussex to the Yorkshire Dales. But, at the end of that journey, last Friday, the pretty little Yorkshire market town of Leyburn welcomed us with open arms. The wide square is flanked by lovely shops, tearooms and pubs. Everyone was friendly and seemed so excited about the Dales Festival of Food & Drink that was soon to take place the next day.

Produce Awards 2018: North East Produce Awards judging

A bright start under grey skies

On Saturday morning, with the sky looking ominously grey, our five judges joined me in the Fisher & Paykel Social Kitchen next to the performance tent at the top end of the market square and took their seats for the first round of the delicious. Produce Awards.

Sue Nelson, Jane Lovett, Gilly Robinson, Heather Perry and Simon Crannage are all renowned local food experts and were nothing if not methodical in their tasting process. Each entry from the shortlist was carefully judged on four criteria: quality and appearance, taste, provenance and passion, with several of the entries scoring very high on all fronts.

Mouthwatering flavours

We were entertained (but never distracted!) by all the activities going on in front of us in the performance tent throughout, with several audience members shushing us whenever we raised our voices in excitement at some of the mouthwatering flavours that were coming our way – in particular, the two Teesdale Cheesemakers entries, which sent everyone into absolute rapture. (According to several of the judges, they would be even better with Lottie Shaw’s incredible and apparently totally authentic parkin, a first for me!)

Soaking up the atmosphere – literally

The atmosphere outside the kitchen and throughout the Festival across the square was upbeat all day long. Stalls were busy selling their delicious wares: gooey chocolate brownies; succulent sausages; fabulous pickles…

There was every kind of Wensleydale cheese imaginable, the wonderful Henderson’s Relish to sample, and a cheery running commentary from the organiser’s tent that kept everyone laughing.

Then, the rainclouds gathered in earnest and finally drenched us all in a long downpour of very serious Yorkshire rain. It didn’t seem to stop anyone from smiling, despite visitors and stallholders alike running for cover as I dashed through the rain myself to get to the organisers tent on time in order to draw the winning raffle ticket for the prize hamper!

Congratulations go to…

My sincere congratulations go out to the 10 amazing producers and their products, who made it through to the shortlist, we’ll see you in London at the finals in October at Borough Market!

  1. Doddington Dairy Fruity Bottom Raspberry Yoghurt
  2. Doddington Dairy Naturally Naked Yoghurt
  3. Hesper Farm Skry Original Skyr
  4. Teesdale Cheesemakers Extra Mature Blue
  5. Teesdale Cheesemakers Goat
  6. Sloemotion Hedgerow Gin
  7. Sloemotion Sloe Gin
  8. Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery 002 Maturing Malt
  9. Burtree Puddings Gluten-free Sticky Toffee Pudding
  10. Lottie Shaw’s Yorkshire Parkin Cake


And commiserations…

And of course my heartfelt commiserations go to all those who entered and didn’t make it through on the day. I hope you have better luck next year and please don’t be too disappointed: what you do is so important, you are part of the growing army of people out there making amazing food.

You deserve all our support and admiration for the hard work you do every day, rain or shine.

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